- LTR Blog
- About LTRThis is the History page.
- Contact UsThis is the Contact Us page.
By Meredith Hodges
In Part 1 of Getting Down with Minis, you learned how to begin the relationship with your miniature equine in a positive and natural way that fosters good behavior and a solid relationship between you. You also learned the importance of getting down to your mini’s eye level so that he can make eye contact with you, which discourages striking, jumping on you and other bad behaviors that are common when working with miniature equines. In Part 2, I discussed how important it is to successfully complete the tasks in Part 1 before moving on to Part 2 and explained why it is advisable to work minis in groups, as they perform better when they are with their friends. You also learned how to train minis to go over and around various obstacles. Remember that all of this is to be done with no expectations that may overwhelm your mini—it is better if you maintain an attitude of fun and games. In Part 3, we got down to some serious groundwork training so your mini can be used for the purpose of driving and showing in hand. He learned to lunge and to be ground driven in the round pen and in the open arena through the hourglass pattern and if part of a team, how to do these things as a team. In Part 4, you worked on obstacle exercises on the drive lines to increase strength and coordination.
The fifth and final part of this series will illustrate how you can keep things controlled and will help you to consistently set up an environment for success. NOTE: If you are training two minis, it is really just a matter of teaching each of them the same thing, but at each stage of the ground-driving and hitched lessons, you need to teach each mini separately first and then as a team.
These exercises will require an assistant, so ask someone you trust to help you. Make sure, each step of the way, that you tell your assistant clearly and specifically exactly what you need him or her to do. To begin, take your mini back to the round pen and review your previous ground-driving lessons (“walk,” “trot,” “whoa” and “back”) with an “S” turn through the middle in order to change directions. NOTE: Do not use the “reverse” command during these lessons. Do use the “back” command, but only to loosen the traces when detaching your mini from the tire. Attach a tire to the harness traces as a drag so your mini can get used to pulling weight behind him. To do this, first thread some baling twine through the slits at the ends of your traces to create “loops.” The slits in the traces are usually too narrow to allow a line to slide freely back and forth through them, but the baling twine will work well to accommodate this.
Next, take a piece of flat nylon stripping such as a strip of lunge line and tie it to a tire with about six to eight feet of extra line. This extra line will be threaded through the baling twine loops and then be handed back into the hands of your assistant. Now ask your assistant to walk alongside and slightly behind you, holding on to the piece of nylon stripping as you ground drive your mini. Always make sure your assistant is walking on the side away from the fence so as not to trap him or her if things go wrong. If, for any reason, your mini bolts, tell your assistant to simply let go of the nylon stripping. Your mini will quickly be released from the tire. NOTE: If training a team, do the “drag” exercise with each single mini first before exercising them as a team. Working one mini at a time first will help to avoid any major wrecks that can cause your mini(s) any anxiety or distrust.
Spend as many tire drag lessons as it takes in the round pen to be sure your mini is driving easily and smoothly before graduating him to the open arena with the tire. Just as you did with simple ground driving, once he is ready, let your mini drag the tire while ground driving him through two rotations of the hourglass pattern, and then cross the long diagonal and do two more rotations in the opposite direction. Make halts often so rewards can be dispensed for a job well done. Do not make any abrupt turns or try to add speed before you are completely competent with the lines and your mini is responding obediently. Ground driving is as much for you to learn good Reinsmanship as it is for your mini to learn to drive correctly. If training more than one mini, just tie whichever mini you’re not working with at the moment off to the side and have him wait his turn before ground driving the two as a team. The frequent halts with rewards will teach him to stay clam and remain still when asked.
Before actually hitching your mini to the vehicle, be sure to check all harness straps and make sure they are correctly adjusted. While you do this, you will also be teaching your mini (or minis if a team) to stand still in the cross ties, which will make hitching much easier. Checking all harness straps can be done anywhere that your fences or hitch rails are close enough together to accommodate the cross ties and still allow enough room for a single mini (or team) and the vehicle. During this lesson, all you need to do is put on and adjust the harness, hitch to your vehicle, have your mini (or team) stand quietly while being rewarded and then take everything back off. Before leading your mini(s) away from the vehicle, spend some time rewarding again for standing still and staying in position.
To begin the next lesson, first review the steps in the previous lesson and make sure your mini (or minis in the case of a team) is standing quietly in the crossties before harnessing to the vehicle. When ground driving a single animal, ask your assistant to stand in front and to the side of your mini with a lead rope attached to a ring on the noseband (not the bit) of your mini’s harness bridle. When ground driving a team, you will need to use two assistants. Ask each assistant to stand on either side of the team. Once your mini is harnessed, and when you are seated in the vehicle and ready to go forward, ask your assistant to unsnap the cross ties and release your mini while your assistant stands at his head. Now ask your mini to “walk on.” Let him go just a few steps and then ask him to “Whoa.” If your mini does not stop promptly, your assistant can help by pulling back on the lead rope with a pull/release motion while, at the same time, you pull back on the drive lines with a pull/release motion. When he does stop, have your assistant give him his oats reward. Let your mini settle before asking him to back a couple of steps and halt again. Reward him for halting and end the lesson there. The object is to allow your mini enough time to understand what you are trying to teach him and respond accordingly so he can be rewarded without spending so much time that he gets bored and sucks you into a confrontation.
Now your mini is ready to go to the open arena to be driven for the very first time. For the sake of safety, use your assistant (or, in the case of a team, assistants) during lessons until your mini (or team) is driving easily and responding to all of your cues and verbal commands promptly and calmly. Using an assistant helps to guide your mini through his lessons when he can no longer see you out in front. Your assistant will also help your mini to drive forward with confidence, as well as being on-hand to aid you if your mini has problems with turns and backing. Using an assistant also allows you more time to perfect your Reinsmanship and your ability to plan your movements in an organized and logical way.
When your mini is hitched to a vehicle, make a very large hourglass pattern to accommodate your vehicle. His familiarity with this pattern will help him to feel calm and gain confidence while being driven. Every time you end a lesson, keep your assistant at your mini’s head until your mini is fully unhitched from the vehicle. NOTE: Always remove the harness bridle last. Once he is unhitched, make your mini stand where he is while you come to him, then reward him and lead him away. This is how he will learn to wait for you and will not become antsy and uncontrollable. Routinely practicing good manners, setting up an environment for success and approaching your mini with a calm and deliberate attitude will all help him to become a quiet, safe and reliable driving animal.
To learn more about Meredith Hodges and her comprehensive all-breed equine training program, visit LuckyThreeRanch.com or call 1-800-816-7566. Check out her children’s website at JasperTheMule.com. Also, find Meredith on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
© 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2019 Lucky Three Ranch, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Do you need some help with the lead ropes?
The saddle mules are headed for turnout. Where do you think we are going, Spuds?
Looks like we’re headed for the hayfield, Augie!
Looks like you were right, Spuds!
Isn’t it beautiful, Augie?!
What is that big yellow thing, Augie?!
That’s Chad, Spuds…oh, you mean the swather?!
How do you do, Augie? Now smile for the picture!
How do you do, Spuds? Not so sure?
WOW! That big thing sure makes a lot of noise!
Now where are we going, Augie?!
These are some really deep windrows!
And some really tall grass is growing in the jump course, Augie!
Boy, I’ll say it’s tall, Spuds! I can’t see a thing! Where are we going?
Spuds, Augie, Are you guys into having a picnic out here?
You bet! This is really cool!
Smile for the camera, Boys!
We are very happy with you, Mini Momma, aren’t we Spuds?!
I wuv you, too, Mini Momma!
And I love you both! What a grand picnic!
Roll did exceptionally well today! He was also happy that he got to work out with his little buddies, Augie and Spuds. His body is beginning to get toned up again and he is starting to shed off his winter coat.
I did a quick pass with the hairbrush and then the vacuum cleaner. Last was Johnson’s Baby Oil in his mane and tail. I noticed right away during the grooming process that he was finally put weight on his right hind foot again.
On the way to the arena, I led Roll and Steve led Augie and Spuds.
Roll executed the gate perfectly as he always has. There is really something to be said for GATE TRAINING! With routine practice, they always know exactly what is expected and respond accordingly…no fussing at all.
Roll got his turn in the hourglass pattern first and did amazingly well while Augie and Spuds waited patiently at the fence.
I never had to physically move a foot with any tugs on the rope. He responded 100% to the verbal commands to correct his stance when he was in a full stop and fully weighted all four feet this time when he was asked to do so.
To fully weight the foot in the arena, he had to push the sand down. Sometimes I asked him to do it and sometimes I did not. With the ringbone and side bones in three feet, I really did not expect him to come back to full balance, but he did! What a great surprise!
After a halt on centerline, he followed me obediently to the fence with the lead rope slung over his neck.
When I went to retrieve him he was sideways to the fence, but he moved over so I could release him from the fence on my hand signal alone.
Roll executed the gate perfectly again on the way out…
…then we proceeded down the road and back to the Tack Barn. What a guy!!!
“This vacuum sure feel good, Spuds!”
“Yeah, Augie, but why is Roll here with us?”
“Not sure, Spuds, but she’s putting on our driving gear.
We haven’t done that in a very long time! Can you tell where we are going?””
“Not really! I can see underneath, but Roll still makes a better door than a window! Is he going with us?!”
“It looks more like we are going with HIM, Spuds!”
“Oh look, Spuds! It’s the hourglass pattern! It must be ground driving today!”
She just got done leading Roll through the pattern and now you get to ground drive the pattern. Why do I have to go last?!
“Because that’s just the way it is, Augie! Just stay cool and chill while we do this thing in sync. I love to see if she can match my tiny steps!”
“One…two…three…four. She’s doing pretty good, Augie!”
Finally, it’s MY turn now, Spuds…one…two…three…four!”
“You watch, Spuds! I’m putting my whole body into it”
“Apparently she liked it! That was really fun and EASY!”
“Ah Gee, Spuds, do we have to go back already!”
“I don’t know about you, Augie, but I’m ready for supper!”
“You’re always ready for supper. That’s why you are so PORTLY, PUDS!”
“It’s a beautiful Fall day, Augie! Where do you think we are we going this time?”
“Maybe I shouldn’t have asked!”
“It wasn’t really THAT bad, was it, Spuds?!”
“Hey, Spuds, come look in here! It’s pretty cool!”
“Has she finally lost her mind, Augie?! We can’t fit in there!”
“It’s okay Fellas! We aren’t really going to try to climb in there! I was just kidding!”
“Guess the joke was on us this time, eh Augie?…Hmmmm…what’s this?”
“THIS is a big ditch full of water with a floating culvert, Spuds!”
“Oh fun!…Another mountain! I’m get to go first this time, Augie!”
“Boy, are these guys BIG, Augie! They are all really nice though!”
“Oh good, we get to see even more of our BIG friends, Spuds!”
“Where are we headed now, Augie!”
“It looks like we have some gate-training going on here, Spuds!”
“Remember to stand quietly while she shuts the gate, Augie!”
“She’s really proud of this new bathroom they are building, Spuds, so be sure to seem interested so you don’t hurt her feelings!”
“Okay, I’m in Augie, but I am also ready to exit stage right!”
“Wait a second, You Guys, I have a rock in my shoe!”
“Wait, Spuds, Mom has a rock in her shoe!”
“Isn’t this a cool statue, Spuds?”
“Yeah, that one was cool, but this one is my favorite, Augie!”
“Hey, Spuds! This one is just our size!!!”
“More gate training and we’re home again! What a great time we had on such a gorgeous Fall day!
“Hey, Augie! The sign says, ‘Beware of the Ass,’ but I say, ‘Beware of the Ass Trainer!’ We might actually have to do some work!”
“It’s nice to have a “Header” to follow right out of the Tack barn! That way we can start out on the right “feet!”
“One, two, three, four…one, two, three, four…I wonder where we are headed today, Spuds?!”
“Oh, WOW! We get to go to the hayfield, Spuds. Wide open spaces are FUN!”
“Be sure to stay in sync, Spuds! One, two, three, four…one, two, three, four…”
“Gotcha, Augie! Boy is this grass GREEN!”
“Great halt, Spuds! Now remember we can’t move or we won’t get our oats reward!”
“Aah, what’s this, Augie!”
“It’s just a culvert so we don’t have to jump the water in the ditch anymore, Spuds!”
“This is A LOT easier, Augie!”
“I guess we’re headed for home now, Augie!”
“Another wonderful adventure, eh Spuds?! Maybe we really don’t have to ‘Beware of the Ass Trainer’ after all!”
“Hey, Augie! It sure is hot…great day for a bath don’t you think?”
“Well, Roll seems pretty pleased after his bath looking in the window at
himself like that! Who needs a mirror?!”
“Hey, Spuds! I found a gold mine of oats AND grass!!!”
“A little WET, but not too bad!”
“Oooooh! That water is kinda cold, Spuds! Shocking!!!”
“Don’t pout, Spuds! It isn’t THAT cold and she will be done with you
in a minute! Suck it up!”
“What’s up, Spuds? Eat your oats!”
“I can’t be BOUGHT, Augie!”
“No Spuds, but you could cut off your nose to spite your face!”
“Hey, Mom…come back! I want the oats now!”
“You’re lucky she came back, Spuds!”
“We are two REALLY LUCKY guys, Augie! She’s the best!”
“Hey Spuds, where are we going today? What’s that over there?”
“Oh, it’s just the barrels. I remember ground driving through these!”
“This is my favorite part of the lessons, Augie!”
“What the heck does she want now, Augie?”
“Okay, I get it now Augie!” That was easy!”
“Now what is she up to? I have to work by myself?!”
“Spuds, I just can’t back between the barrels. I can’t see where I’m going!”
“I’ll show you how, Augie! Forward around the barrels? No sweat!”
“Back around the barrels in a figure eight?! Easy as pie!”
“And the reward is always just heavenly!”
“Oh good…something I CAN do!”
“Wheee! Now this IS fun!”
“I’m not too sure about these steps, Augie!
“But jumping sure IS fun! I am so glad she made us pay attention to good posture during training!”
“It was another great adventure, eh Spuds?!”
“Yup, it sure was!”
“Hey Augie, what’s she want us to do today?!”
“I think she wants me to JUMP!”
“It’s a good thing the surface is rough enough to stop, Spuds!”
“I was afraid it wasn’t, so I got out of your way, Augie!”
“It IS a mounting block, but… I’m not sure you can hold me!”
“I think not, so I’ll just jump down… and be careful not to clip your head!”
“I’m not sure I can do this as well as you did, Augie!!!”
“Can you at least TRY, Spuds?!”
“Okay Augie, I’ll try!”
“Are you okay, Spuds?”
“That was some kinda sliding stop, Spuds!!!”
“Thanks a lot, Augie! I’m getting down now!”
“Hey Spuds, watch out!!!”
“Is it time for oats now?!!!!”
“She would NEVER forget the oats if we do what she asks, Spuds!
“Is that why you usually get more than me, Augie?!”
“Roll’s hogging the washrack, Augie! How are we supposed to fit?”
“Is this better, Spuds?” “I suppose so, Augie…as long as he keeps his distance!”
“Hey, Spuds, how’s it feel?”
“It’s so hot, this feels GREAT, Augie!!!”
“Oh yeah, Spuds, this is great…nice cool water!”
“Uh, excuse me, is anyone listening? BIG FOOT here is getting a little too close again!”
“Oh good! Thanks, Mom!”
“Just you wait, Spuds!”
“Hey, Augie! Did he just threaten me?”
“Naw, he’s just kidding, Spuds.”
“Are ya sure, Augie?”
“Yeah, I’m sure. We’re all too COOL to behave badly!”
“Hey, Augie! Where are we going today?”
“Isn’t there a better way to go than up the steps?”
“Really Augie, do you always have to be so cooperative?”
“Okay, what’s up now?”
“Oats are always good!”
“Are you kidding me? You really think that book will help?”
“Augie, do you always have to be such a show-off?”
“If you took the time to study, Spuds, things might be a lot easier for you!”
“Maybe you’re right, Augie!”
“I like how the book says we’re different, Augie. The family that grazes together, stays together!”
“Ooh La La! Isn’t SHE lovely? Augie, check HER out! Nice socks, Honey!”
“She doesn’t look all that impressed with you, Spuds!”
“Maybe she’ll like ME better! She really IS kinda cute!”
“Hmmm! Stealin’ my action eh, Augie?! Well, she doesn’t look all that impressed with you either!
“Let’s just play hard to get and maybe she will change her tune, Spuds!”
“I guess two can play that game, Augie…now she’s pretending she’s asleep!”
“But she IS so cute, Spuds!”
“WOMEN! You can’t live with them and you can’t live without them, so what’s a guy to do?!”
“Where’d they go?!!!”
“What’s up today, Augie?” “Not a clue, Spuds, but it’s not the carriage.”
“Whoa!” What’s this, Augie?” “Spuds, quit runnin’ into me! I can’t see it!”
“REALLY, Spuds?!” Quit being so dramatic…it’s just the tarp!”
“Okay! I get it. You want me to lead this time!”
“Hey, Spuds! We’re playing follow the leader and I get to be the leader!”
“It’s no sweat, Spuds!”
“Hmmmm…there’s grass in here!”
“Uh, do we really have to stop right here?!”
“We’re working on core strength, Augie!”
“…and then again here?” “Hey Augie, pretty slick move! (I hope I don’t have to do that!)”
“Uh, oh, Augie! It’s my turn!”
“This is a cinch, Augie!”
“Darn! We’re back to the tarp again…HELP, Augie!”
“Don’t worry, Spuds! I’ll show you how to do it.”
“This isn’t so bad, I guess!”
“You’re right, Augie! That was pretty easy and lots of fun after all!”
“It’s even more fun when we do it TOGETHER!”
“Here we go again, Spuds, but something feels really different and strange.”
“Did you say strange, Augie? Well, I’m outta here!”
“I think she said “Whoa,” Spuds!
“Whew! I’m glad she switched the lines back BEHIND the terrets instead of in front of them!
It was putting a kink in my neck, Spuds!”
“Me, too, Augie! Besides, I like it much better when I can really FEEL her hands.”
“I’m sure glad she took the time to review ground driving before hitching us up again!”
“Okay Spuds, now let’s get lined up straight for her!”
“No problem, Augie!”
“Hey Augie, I recognize this! It’s the hourglass pattern we’ve been ground driving for
the past few months!”
“Are Sean and Steve in sync with us, Spuds?” “They sure are, Augie!”
“Get ready, Spuds, we’re gonna WHOA!”
“And we’re off again, Augie!” One…two…three…four…”
“Yup Spuds, I’m really glad she decided to go ahead and cross the lines BEHIND the terrets even though she said it was ‘against the rules’!”
“Hmmm, this grass looks pretty tasty, Augie!”
“Whew! What a long workout for twenty minutes!…I’m tired, Augie!” “Me, too, Spuds!”
“Hey Spuds, how about next time you pull and I push like Sean and Steve are doing?!”
“Not a chance, Augie!”
NOTE from Meredith: Equines are always honest in their reactions to training. When things go wrong, it is always the handler’s fault. Everything I have learned about driving said that when driving a team, put simply, you should thread the inside lines through the terrets of the opposite equine making the lines cross in an “X” just in front of the terrets. With my larger equines, this never really posed a problem…until I tried it with Augie and Spuds.
I had always ground driven Augie and Spuds single and then together as a team with their lines going directly from their mouths through their terrets on their harness saddles and to my respective hands. I could then clearly feel the connection from my hands to their lips holding all four lines. This never posed a problem until I decided that maybe I should thread the lines in the more conventional way with the lines crossed in front of and running through the opposing equine’s terrets. It worked fine until they got uneven. When I said “Whoa” and pulled back on the lines, the inside lines acted like “drawreins” with too much leverage for their short little necks. The only direct and light contact I had was on the nearside (left) and offside (right) lines of the team. When they could no longer feel the even contact on both sides of their mouths, they both bolted as shown in the picture above. I immediately changed the lines back to their original position with the lines crossing into my hands BEHIND the terrets instead of in front of the terrets. I could then feel the connection on both sides again and so could they. The result was immediate compliance! We were again “connected!”
When using split lines, the draft lines go from the nearside bit ring of the near side equine and the offside bit ring of the offside equine direct to the driver. A series of holes in the coupling lines allow for adjustment. The nearside coupling line passes through the inside terret of the nearside equine and across to the bit ring of the offside equine and vice versa. To avoid any confusion for the equines, I think it is important to train with two sets of lines in the beginning, until they are clearly aware of their job and actually can feel the connection to your hands. I would not advise split lines for beginning training. The connection from your hands to their mouths is too loose and it is hard for them to understand your intent, especially in the case of miniatures since the distance from their mouth to the terrets is so short and the action on the lines can be so severe. Once proficient with four lines, they can then “graduate” to split lines for your convenience.
“What do you suppose we’re doing today down here in the dressage arena…hmmmm?!”
“Whatever it is, Spuds, I get to go first!!”
“Hey, Spuds, this is really easy and lots of fun!”
“Look Spuds, I finally learned the rein back!”
“And…I did it perfectly!”
“Your turn now, Spuds!”
“Like you said, Augie, this is a breeze!”
“Can we trot yet?”
“Now we get to do the hourglass pattern together, Spuds! Whoohoo! What fun!”
“Don’t forget to stay in sync, Augie! One…two…three…four!”
“And Whoa! Good job, Augie! Good job, Spuds!”
“It’s okay Augie! Just take it one small step at a time. She’ll wait for us!”
“Not a bad lesson, Spuds!”
“Augie, don’t you know that we’re the BEST?!”
“Hi, Spuds, Hi, Augie! Fancy meeting you here!”
“Hey, Roll! Why are ya all wet?”
“You’ll see soon enough!”
“Uh, hey you guys, I’m over here! Oats, please?!
“Hey, Spuds, where’d she go?”
“She’s giving Roll some oats. You know she never plays favorites, Augie!”
“Oh, no, it’s bath time again!”
“So soon? It’s already been a year, Augie!”
“If I can just bury my head into the fanny pack…”
“Augie, maybe if I get into the act she’ll do us both at once and we’ll get done quicker!”
“I’m not sure this is such a good idea, Augie!”
“You okay, Spuds?”
“Look at it this way, Spuds…you’re almost done!”
“And now I AM done, Augie! Am I ever.”
“Hey, Roll! Why don’t YOU have to dry on the hotwalker?”
“Because he’s bigger? What kind of an answer was that, Augie!”
“Because he IS bigger, Spuds! Need he say more?”
“Hey, we haven’t seen you guys in a while! How have you been?! We get to go for another adventure with Meredith today!”
“What do you suppose she has in mind for us today, Spuds?”
“I don’t know, Augie, but we’ll find out soon enough! Let’s just stand still while she gets the gate…just like we always do!”
“Going through the gate is always easier when you do it the same way every time!”
“Uh, what’s this, Spuds? I’ve seen this somewhere else before…oh, yeah, in the round pen! This should be easier to pull with more room to move!”
“It’s just as I thought, Spuds…no sweat! It’s the same as we did in the round pen, only we can pull in long straight lines now! It’ll be your turn in a few minutes…I just have to finish the hourglass pattern.”
“You were right, Augie! This is actually easier than the round pen and it’s nice to have the “elbow pull” to remind me not to lift my head too high and to pull from my hindquarters…it’s just like people have to lift with their legs and not with their backs!”
“And when you do, Augie, it’s easy to halt in perfect posture!”
“When we’re both taught exactly the same way, teamwork is a cinch!”
“When you have strength in good balance, even lateral moves, done as a team, are easy and fun…shall we dance?!!”
“Don’t be silly, Spuds, we’re working not dancing, so pull your share! She’ll tap you on your rear if you don’t keep up!”
“You boys are the very best!!!
“Aren’t we though?!”
“Confidence is a good thing, too, huh, Augie?!
“Yeah, Spuds, as long as you learn good manners with it!”
Mini donkeys Spuds and Augie are always up for a new challenge–like adding a new element to their round pen workout routine!
“Hey, Spuds! What do you think she has in mind to do today with all these straps?”
“Oomph! She told me to go forward just like we did before, but something is holding me back…oh, now it is coming behind me! What’s happening?!”
“You’re attached to a tire! Here, follow me!”
“Oh boy, now it’s my turn, Augie!”
“Don’t worry, Spuds. I’m right behind you…this tire’s not that scary.”
“Excuse me, Spuds! I had to stop to pee. Just go ahead and pass me and I’ll catch up to you when I’m done!”
“That was really easy, but now what is she doing, Augie?”
There’s a lot of construction going on at the ranch, but Spuds and Augie sense the opportunity for adventure!
It’s summer time, and there are tons of adventures to be had for two mini donkeys on a bustling ranch like Lucky Three. Today, Spuds and Augie explore the hay field with Meredith and test their bravery against a fearsome, loud machine.
She’s kinda silly, Augie. Who ever heard of saying “how do you do” to a swather, Augie?